Living a more sustainable life has always been a goal of mine and living in a major metropolitan city has made it a more difficult to achieve. I recently was invited to join a bucket list challenge and thought this would be a great opportunity for me to make some needed changes. By making small changes now and exploring other options for green living after I've had success, sustainable living will become a more permanent part of my life. Here are a few of the things I am doing to live a more sustainable life and I challenge you to join me…
Eat a Reasonably More Sustainable & Healthy Diet
Eating healthy is a goal most of us would like to achieve however, the biggest obstacle for me is the amount of time involved in obtaining and preparing fresh foods. Growing up in Western Pennsylvania, I remember as a child helping to plant a vegetable garden in the back yard. We had the usual Better Boy tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, green beans, zucchini and corn. I can still taste the wonderful salads made with fresh lettuce and vegetables from the garden. I live in Phoenix Arizona now which is located in the northern part of the Sonoran Desert, not an ideal location for a vegetable garden and because of the extreme climate not suitable for growing many fruits and vegetables. The warm weather is ideal for an herb garden though and you can grow some vegetables like tomatoes in the spring. A container garden is an ideal way to grow herbs so I decided to plant an herb garden in an old whiskey barrel, see photo to the right. I planted some cilantro and paired with the tomato hope to make some killer salsa. I also planted sweet basil, italian flat leaf parsley, and sweet banana pepper.
Eating less red meat is not only more healthy it is much better for the environment. It is estimated that each 4 oz serving of beef generates an equivalent amount of greenhouse gases as driving 6.6 miles. The same sized portion of chicken is equivalent to driving 1.7 miles. This one is easy as I don’t eat a lot of red meat to begin with and the fact that my favorite meat, New York Strip, is $9 a pound and it's not always in the budget for me.
According to the Dartmouth Sustainability Project, eating a vegetarian meal once per week reduces carbon emissions by 1160 miles of driving. I'm thinking pasta with marinara sauce, bread and a salad!
Generate Less Waste
There are some simple things that you can do to reduce the amount of waste that ends up in landfills. I recently moved and made sure that I signed up for paperless statements, it's an easy way to drastically reduce the amount of paper and energy used in mailing statements to your home. I also like to have a coffee every now and then at Starbucks and when I go I bring my insulated coffee mug with me. I get a discount and there is one less cup in the landfill!
Like most Americans I eat more fast food than I should and this is one area that I am focusing on not only for health reasons but for budget reasons as well. Additionally, reducing the number of meals eaten outside of the home will cut down on the amount of waste generated. When I do eat out now I order a small combo meal with a small soft drink without ice. Did you know that you get just about the same amount of beverage in a medium cup filled with ice as a small cup without ice? I've also ordered medium drinks without ice and shared them.
By far the biggest obstacle to generating less waste is the amount of packaging on products I purchase. Since my divorce it has been a struggle to cook for myself and my daughter. We typically eat out several times each week, she loves Boston Market, while it is relatively nutritious food it is much more expensive than eating at home. I don't buy items in bulk because of the risk of spoilage so I look for sustainable packaging when possible on all of the products I buy.
Conserve Energy & Resources
Living a sustainable life is all about conserving and reusing resources. With the purchase of a new home I've had many opportunities to perform DIY projects like repairing leaks in the irrigation system, installing a ceiling fan, and adding weather strip around outside openings. I was in the garage recently and noticed a leak in the ductwork connecting the HVAC unit to the interior duct so I called my homeowner's warranty company to schedule the repair work. This is something that should have been caught by the home inspector I hired so I'm a little disappointed he missed this. The lesson here is make sure you are present during the inspection of your HVAC system and insist that the ductwork be checked for leaks. Don't assume that because you installed weatherstrip last year that it is in the same condition this year. Perform a yearly inspection of all doors, windows, and HVAC system and ducting to make sure all leaks are sealed properly and equipment is operating efficiently. Once I am in the home for 12 months and have a baseline for energy usage, I will explore having solar panels installed which will reduce the amount of energy I require from the grid and lower my monthly utility cost.
Make Do With What I Have
Mostly out of necessity I am learning to make do with what I have. I've always taken pretty good care of my things and that includes repairing broken items instead of replacing them and discarding the used items. Over the years I have saved literally thousands of dollars repairing appliances, cars and trucks I've owned, and lots of DIY projects around the home. I have struggled with asthma for most of my adult life and recently decided to pull the old Roomba out of storage in the garage to help combat the dust bunnies generated by my dog Max. Long story short, the Roomba looks like Max chasing his tail in circles and after a quick search on the internet, I ordered a couple parts and plan on repairing it myself. By spending $25 on parts I can extend the life of the $329 Roomba and come home to a cleaner home! While we are on the topic of DIY projects, I truly believe most people can repair many items around the home (electrical repairs are the exception) extending the useful life and saving money at the same time.
I would like to thank fellow blogger and friend Buck from Buck Inspire for challenging me to take action now on completing some things on my bucket list.
Readers: Do you have a bucket list? What is the next “bucket list” item you want to accomplish?